Drivers test limits of trucks, tractors at Boone County Fair

Wednesday, July 25, 2012 | 6:14 p.m. CDT; updated 9:07 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 25, 2012

COLUMBIA — The sound of the revving engines echoed across the Boone County Fairgrounds. Black smoke billowed from exhaust pipes as drivers pushed their vehicles to the limits of towing capacity, engines squealing as they flew past onlookers.

All afternoon, the vehicles had been arriving on trailers and in the backs of semitrucks. Tractors and trucks of all makes and models filled the field behind the grandstand at the Boone County Fairgrounds on Tuesday for a truck and tractor pull.

Two organizations, the Missouri Farm Pullers and the Mid-Missouri Truck and Tractor Pulling Association, came out in force for the first night of the Boone County Fair.

Julie Lipscomb, whose husband and son both are in the Missouri Farm Pullers, said that pulling is a common thing to do in the farming community. “Some people go waterskiing, this is a hobby — a farmer’s hobby,” she said.

The president of the Missouri Farm Pullers, Kirk Hatfield, agrees with her. “On a good night you make back your entry fee and enough extra to buy supper,” he joked.

He and about 10 of his friends met up in his farm shop one day and wanted something fun to do that didn’t cost a lot of money. They decided to form the group, and while they’re only in their second year, membership has grown considerably. They have at least 50 regular participants and about 100 members altogether.

Some of the tractors driven by the group come straight off the farm. Others may be altered a little in terms of weight, but nothing major.

The other group at the fairgrounds, the Mid-Missouri Truck and Tractor Pulling Association, is not as utilitarian.

“Our equipment is a little more souped up,” Lucy Albertson said. “There’s so much power behind 'em, it’s scary.” She is the treasurer of the not-for-profit, and her husband is the president. Money that doesn’t go toward prizes is donated, commonly to National FFA Organization groups.

The Mid-Missouri Truck and Tractor Pulling Association has more safety regulations, such as helmets and harnesses, because it’s more common for the vehicles to have been altered to go faster and pull more weight.

The members of each group compete against fellow members, each person accruing points as the season of pulls progresses. Each different organization makes its own set of rules, so they each have their own officials.

Drivers perform in classes organized by weight, type of vehicle and speed. After everyone in the class competes, the champion of that class is awarded the most points.

People don’t necessarily participate for the competitive nature, Antorie Williams of the Missouri Farm Pullers said. He and his father got a truck together when he was 10 years old, and they’ve been involved ever since. Friends of Williams have bought trucks and pull along with him.

“It’s not who can beat who,” he said. “We’re just all getting together to pull and have fun.”

Supervising editor is Celia Darrough.

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